A Thousand Shards of Crimson

Chapter 6

Byakuya fixed his cool grey eyes on Renji's almond coloured ones. The young man had his fists clenched into a tight ball, his tanned face flushed. Renji was sweating through his shihakusho, and could feel the beads of sweat trickling down his forehead but he dare not move. He was frozen under the commanding presence of his captain, and so ashamed at his rash behaviour that he averted his gaze as soon as Byakuya's eyes landed on his. He could feel Byakuya's gaze boring into him, yet his captain refused to say anything. Renji wasn't sure how much time had passed, it could have been seconds, minutes or hours for all he knew before Byakuya spoke.

"Renji, I would like to hear in your own words what happened during the fight with the Menos Grande." said Byakuya betraying no hint of emotion.

"Umm well, " started Renji scratching his head, looking at the floor.

"Look at me," Byakuya commanded. Renji's head immediately snapped up, and met his captains eyes.

"Two Gillian appeared in the northern outskirts of Karakura. Rangiku and Shuhei fought off one of the Gillian while I fought off the other. Right after I defeated it, another three appeared. I didn't notice the spiritual pressure, and so was caught in the blast when one of the Menos fired a Cero," replied Renji staring at Byakuya's perfectly shaped mouth instead of his eyes. He has such flawless white skin, and such beautiful lips. I just want to...

"How?" asked Byakuya interrupting Renji's thoughts. "How is it possible, that a vice captain such as yourself neglected to feel the spiritual pressure of a thousand hollows that have merged together?" said Byakuya icily, his eyes narrowing.

"I...I don't know captain Kuchiki," mumbled Renji, his eyes lowering to the ground once more.

"Look at me Renji," Byakuya said authoritatively. Renji raised his head and met his captains stormy grey eyes. Byakuya looked furious, his mouth was set in a thin line, and his usually calm unwavering eyes shimmered with anger. "You are an embarrassment to the sixth division squad. The captain commander specifically chose you because he believed that you showcased the skills needed to defeat a Menos Grande easily. Why did you not enlist in the help of your other team members?" asked Byakuya, his voice deadly calm, yet the look in his eyes terrified Renji.

"I thought...I thought I had enough skill to defeat the Menos on my own by using bankai," replied Renji meekly.

"I've already told you before. You hurriedly learnt bankai to defeat me, yet you have not mastered it. Your arrogance could have cost you your life," said Byakuya in a chilly tone. Renji's eyes widened at Byakuya's words. Was he concerned that I would lose my life? Renji's heart thundered against his ribs as he savoured the words his captain had just uttered.

"Captain Kuchiki I humbly apologize for shaming the sixth division squad and for failing to complete my mission without any trouble," said Renji solemnly as he bowed.

"Another reckless mistake such as this one, and I'll have you transferred to another squad," said Byakuya sharply. "I have no need for a brainless oaf who goes thundering off into battle without assessing the situation properly. Renji stiffened as the heard those words, his mouth forming into a grimace. So much for being concerned over me.

Byakuya gazed at the man bowing before him, wondering what a suitable punishment would be. "Renji, lift your head. Do you realize that you rely too much on your bankai for simple things such as defeating a mere Gillian? In addition, combined with your egotistical attitude, and lack of aptitude for assessing battle situations you weren't able to complete a simple mission successfully." Byakuya watched as Renji flinched, and averted his eyes once more the floor. "I noticed that you enjoy training alone, however that is not sufficient. It would be best for you to have some one on one training with another member of the squad."

Renji's mouth hung open slightly as he stared at Byakuya in disbelief. It was highly unusual that the sixth division captain would give advice on how his subordinates could improve. "Thank you for your advice captain Kuchiki," said Renji hurriedly giving another low bow.

"You will train with me Renji," replied Byakuya.

Renji's eyes widened as he gawked at his captain, his mouth now fully agape, "Captain did you just say..."

"Yes Renji. I said you will train with me. Don't make me repeat myself," said Byakuya coolly. "I will meet you tonight after the sun sets in the woods, where the thicket gives way to an open space with a cascading waterfall. I know that's where you usually train." Renji continued to gape at Byakuya, his mouth opening and closing yet no words formed.

"Captain," he managed at last. "How did you know that I go there nearly every night to train?"

"I just so happened to stumble across one of your training sessions one night," said Byakuya in a smooth silky voice. Renji slightly blushed and averted his eyes as he wondered whether Byakuya had ever seen him take a dip in the falls after his vigorous training sessions.

"Thank you for offering to help me train. I know that with you as a teacher I will become a better warrior." said Renji humbly bowing again.

"You are dismissed," said Byakuya. As Renji raised his head, his eyes made contact with Byakuya's cloudy grey ones, and Renji was surprised to see that there was no anger or disappointment in them. He wasn't sure if he had seen correctly but he was certain that there was a softness that flashed in those grey eyes just as Renji turned around to leave.

As Renji shut the door behind him a soft sigh escaped from Byakuya's lips. He didn't understand why he had agreed to train Renji. He was supposed to think of a suitable punishment for him and instead he had wound up helping him. Byakuya gazed at his fingertips remembering the touch of Renji's hands on his skin, and his heart started hammering in his chest. This can't be happening. I don't understand why this man is making my heart race. Byakuya made his way behind his well furnished oak desk and slumped in his chair, his gloved hands covering his face. He felt baffled at the emotions that swirled inside of him, threatening to spill out of his heart. Ever since Hisana passed away, Byakuya had closed off his heart, refusing to love anybody, fearing the pain that comes with the loss of a loved one. His heart had turned to ice cold stone, in these past fifty years, and no amount of warmth could thaw it. Yet, when Byakuya thought of Renji, the image that came to mind wasn't the warm, soft flame of a candlelight, but a scorching, raging fire that could destroy all of Byakuya's icy walls.

"I won't allow his to happen," whispered Byakuya to himself. "I won't allow myself to fall for a man." Shaking away any other intrusive thoughts about his vice captain Byakuya grabbed a stack of papers on his desk and began writing his report.

Ten hours later, Byakuya was gazing out the window of his office watching the blood red sun set behind the horizon. He was feeling anxious, and his heartbeat had accelerated more than usual as he thought about his private training lessons with Renji. He couldn't understand what had possessed him to make that ludicrous suggestion, yet he found himself looking forward to their meeting. Byakuya slowly made his way outside, and followed the familiar path that led to the woods. It was a particularly cool summer evening, the sky had turned to shades of violet and indigo, with wisps of pink clouds. Byakuya inhaled the fresh smell of pine, and oak trees as he followed the small winding pathway where the trees grew dense. As Byakuya kept walking at a steady pace, the crescent moon became visible, lighting up the dirt pathway, and the stars winked at him from above. Soon the dense thicket gave way to more sparsely scattered trees, that led to a grassy open space, as Byakuya plodded though the brambles and broken branches. Renji had already arrived and was sitting under a cherry blossom tree, looking very peaceful under the moonlit sky. The open space was quite large, surrounded by dense pine trees, willowy oaks, and beautiful cherry blossoms. It was the perfect place for training in secret and undisturbed.

As soon as Renji saw his captain he leapt up, and bowed. "Thank you captain Kuchiki for offering your vice captain private training lessons." Wordlessly Byakuya unsheathed his sword, and waited patiently till Renji did the same.

"We will first train using the unreleased form of our swords. You have spent too much time training with your bankai that you need to remember how to fight without it," With a fierce look of determination in his eyes, Renji came charging at Byakuya, as metal clashed on metal and sparks flew. They both leapt behind, and this time Byakuya and Renji both rushed towards each other, as Renji lifted his sword above his head and brought it crashing down, just as Byakuya blocked it. They both struggled, Renji's arms quivering against Byakuya's blade. He's strong. Well of course, he is the captain after all, thought Renji as he struggled to overpower Byakuya but failed, and leapt back. Byakuya came at Renji without a moment's hesitation, and struck him down with one blow. Renji dropped to his knees, guarding his face from being hacked to pieces, struggling to throw off the weight of Byakuya's zanpakutou. With a loud roar Renji pushed hard, and Byakuya stepped back a few paces. Finally Renji struggling to get back on his feet, managed to leap backwards. Swiftly using shunpo Renji dived behind Byakuya and brought down his zanpakutou with a deadly blow just as Byakuya disappeared in a flash, only to come up behind Renji and attempt to strike him, but Renji moving just as swiftly managed to turn around just in time to block Byakuya's death strike with his zanpakutou.

Byakuya's arm's were shaking slightly as he struggled to throw off Renji's zanpakutou. "You have improved," said Byakuya, his voice betraying a hint of surprise.

Renji smirked, "One day I'll be even stronger than you,"

"You are a thousand years too young to even be dreaming about that Renji," said Byakuya a slightly smile playing across his lips. Renji's eyes widened in surprise as he scrutinized Byakuya's rare expression of enjoyment. He's actually enjoying himself, thought Renji, his smirk growing broader. Both captain and vice captain leapt backwards and a flurry of metal upon metal rained down, sparks flashing wildly in the night sky. Renji and Byakuya both swinging with powerful blows, blocking, attacking, leaping, clashing overhand, underhand, slashing at one another with ferocious intensity, and speed. Under the moonlit sky as the cherry blossom petals fell littering the fertile green grass with bits of pink softness, the swords danced away glinting in the moonlight. Byakuya pressed on his sword flying wildly as Renji moved his sword, left, right, upwards, downwards struggling to fend off Byakuya's attacks. Byakuya edged him on until Renji reached the base of a giant oak tree, and with no further room to back away Byakuya pressed into him, his blade against Renji's throat and whispered, "You are dead Abarai Renji."

Renji and Byakuya were both panting heavily, their breaths intermingling with one another and as Renji gazed into Byakuya's cool grey eyes, his own brown eyes widened in astonishment. "Captain," said Renji in disbelief, just as Byakuya leapt back, a tinge of pink visible on his pale cheeks. Renji had felt it, as Byakuya's body pressed against his, Senbonzakura at his throat, Renji felt Byakuya hardening at the close bodily contact.

"Captain?" asked Renji hesitantly, watching Byakuya draw in breaths of the cool fresh air. Byakuya turned to Renji, his grey eyes clouded with anger, and embarrassment.

"Don't you dare ever mention this to anybody. Do you understand Renji?" said Byakuya in an icy tone, chilling Renji to the bone. "Today's training session is over," Byakuya said sheathing his sword, and without so much as another word to Renji he turned around and started heading back into the woods. Renji watched, rooted to the ground as his captain walked away, his silky black hair cascading down his back, contrasting beautifully with his white haori.

"Captain, wait!" Renji managed to croak, as he ran towards Byakuya. "Please wait," said Renji a little more gently. Byakuya's back stiffened, but he did not turn around. "I...I..think you are amazing!" Renji blurted out.

Byakuya slowly turned around, fixing his grey eyes on Renji, a look of contempt on his face. "Why are you barking such foolishness Renji?" he asked coldly.

"It's true captain," said Renji quietly. "The reason I wanted to be in the sixth division was so that I could surpass you. You are the man that I admire and look up to," Renji said lowering his gaze to the soft pink petals on the ground. He could still feel Byakuya's eyes piercing his soul, and wondered what was going through his captains mind. "I..I.. have grown to admire you more than I should," Renji whispered finally meeting Byakuya's eyes. It was Byakuya's turn to widen his eyes in surprise. It was the first time Renji had seen Byakuya look so stunned, his lips hanging slightly apart.

"That's impossible," replied Byakuya regaining his composure. "We are both men, and these kinds of feelings are forbidden. Besides don't you have feelings for Rukia?"

Renji gaped at Byakuya, astonished that he would ask such a question in a direct manner. "No captain, I have never had those kinds of feelings towards Rukia even though we have known each other for a long time, and are close friends," replied Renji scratching his head in embarrassment.

Byakuya gazed at the red-head unblinkingly, watching him fidget with his hands, as a slight blush crept into his cheeks. "Since when? Since when have you felt this way about me?"

"I...For as long as I can remember I have admired you," replied Renji confidently, without shying away. "Recently...after our fight...I realized that my feelings for you kept growing," Renji finished quietly.

"This is madness. I want you to forget this ever happened. Do I make myself clear Renji," said Byakuya coldly.

"But captain, I know that you feel the same way about me!" cried out Renji in frustration. His face was flushed, and a hurt look flashed across his eyes. "I always thought that I would just admire you from a distance, and keep my feelings bottled up, but how can I when I know you feel the same way about me!" Renji blurted raising his voice. It was the first time Byakuya had heard his vice captain sound so adamant.

"What do you propose we do about this Renji?" asked Byakuya betraying no hint of emotion whatsoever. How can he be so composed, thought Renji. He clenched his fists, frustrated by Byakuya's refusal to acknowledge his feelings.

"I didn't think that you would ever see me the way I see you," said Renji quietly. "I was planning to carry this secret with me to the grave, ashamed that I was romantically attracted to another man. But then, now that you feel the same way too...I want...I want you," Renji whispered, without taking his eyes off of Byakuya.

The intensity with which Renji gazed at him caused something to stir inside Byakuya. A hunger like he had never known before threatened to claw its way out ripping through his belly, wanting to devour the man that stood in front of him. He could feel the fiery heat rising in his cheeks, as his heart started hammering in his chest. Renji slowly walked towards him until he was only inches away from his captain, and looked into Byakuya's deep grey eyes. The iciness in his eyes vanished, replaced by such softness that it surprised Renji.

"You have very beautiful eyes captain," whispered Renji softly, brushing a lock of Byakuya's hair.

"Stop.. please Renji," Byakuya said quietly. It was the first time Renji had ever seen Byakuya act so submissive. The beast sleeping inside of Renji, awakened as he felt himself getting hard. Renji leaned in, his forehead touching Byakuya's and placed a hand against his cheek.

"I know this is what you want," said Renji quietly. "How many years has it been since someone made you feel this way?" Renji asked, his hand snaking towards Byakuya's hakama as he started untying it.

"Stop Renji!" commanded Byakuya as he grabbed Renji's hands, pushing him slightly. "I am the head of the Kuchiki clan, one of the four great noble families in Seireitei. I can't be caught fornicating with another man," he said, anger shimmering in his eyes.

"Nobody will find us here," replied Renji gazing into Byakuya's eyes. His eyes...I could drown in those grey eyes. Byakuya didn't say anything, he only gazed back at Renji, his breathing quickened.

"I'm...I'm not ready for this," whispered Byakuya, looking up at Renji his eyes widening slightly with fear.

"I'll be patient," said Renji placing a soft kiss on Byakuya's forehead. Stepping away from his captain Renji said, "Let's go back, it's getting late." Byakuya watched Renji walking away, and the terror that gripped him was unlike anything he had ever felt before. His very being rattled with fear, as he grasped the idea that he was infatuated with Abarai Renji. Kuchiki Byakuya, the man whom Renji yearned to be like was not untouchable like Renji once thought, in fact tonight was the night that Renji's fangs had finally pierced him
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